Shira Cohen, left, and Eden Shmuel, Israeli nationals who survived the...

Shira Cohen, left, and Eden Shmuel, Israeli nationals who survived the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, shared their stories of that day at Temple Sinai of Roslyn on Tuesday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Two attendees of an October music festival in Israel that came under attack by Hamas militants spoke at Temple Sinai of Roslyn on Tuesday night, discussing their harrowing escape and life in the months since.

Shira Cohen, 28, and Eden Shmuel, 32, who both live in Israel, had gone to the Nova Music Festival for a day of peace and celebration that ended when they saw Hamas rockets fired at 6:30 a.m. The militants killed 364 festivalgoers, including two friends of Cohen and Shmuel, and captured 40 hostages.

Shmuel told an audience of about 300 at the synagogue that she was in a restroom at the time the attacks. Her mother called to tell her what was happening and she emerged from the bathroom to see people running for their lives.

“It was like a dream,” she said, “that turned to a nightmare.”

Cohen and Shmuel are on a five-day visit to New York to share their stories of surviving the attacks of Oct. 7, which took the lives of two of their friends, Livnat Levi and Hadar Hoshen.

They showed their own videos of escaping. They prayed for all the victims in Israel.

“At the start it was just rockets and we wanted to hide in a shelter,” Shmuel said in an earlier interview with Newsday. “A few minutes later, people were running to us and shouted, 'They are really here; it’s not a rumor, it’s a reality'”

The women ran from a shelter that was bombed shortly afterward. They were able to escape in a car with someone they had met at the music festival.

“At first, we could hear the rockets and we didn't realize something else was happening,” Shmuel said. “It was like a movie and we saw someone covered in blood. Such bad things were really happening.”

Cohen said in Hebrew through a translator that it was “important people know the truth about what happened at the Nova festival and people were seeking peace, just to dance and to have a good time and enjoy life in a peaceful way.”

The attack on the festival was part of a larger Hamas assault that killed roughly 1,200 people, with 240 taken hostage.

“They were raped and slaughtered and killed in the most horrific ways possible, and so many people lost their family members," Cohen said.

Israel responded to the attacks with a declaration of war against Hamas. Since then, more than 26,700 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Temple Sinai's rabbi, Ilana Schachter, said it was important for Long Islanders and all American Jews to hear Cohen and Shmuel tell their stories.

“Since Oct. 7 our community and so many Jewish communities have felt a strong desire to hold the pain of the survivors of the various attacks and stand in solidarity with our community in Israel,” Schachter said earlier Tuesday. “We offered sanctuary to share their stories and a platform so that more people could witness their testimony.”

She noted that in the months since Oct. 7, many in the Jewish community have been keeping a daily count of how long hostages were missing. She said it helps spread awareness of the attacks to those blaming Israel or to fight back against denials that Hamas ever launched an assault.

“We wanted to keep top of mind the importance of bringing hostages home,” she said.

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